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Harvick Happy, Flourishing after Putting Focus First on Family

Note: This continues a series of feature stories highlighting competitors in the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line event week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 1-5. Stories will appear on every Wednesday.

If you’re looking for proof that people change, look no further than 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick.

The 44-year-old driver for Stewart-Haas Racing has gone from the brash, young driver on the scene in the early 2000s to one of the most family-oriented drivers in NASCAR.

In his early days in the Cup Series, it was nothing out of the ordinary to see Harvick jump over a car on pit road after a race to voice his displeasure or use his car in practice to make a point with other drivers.

But then 2012 came, and Harvick and his wife, DeLana, welcomed the birth of their son, Keelan. Not coincidentally, it was around that time that Harvick’s aggression toned down and he started racing for his family.

“I love the pictures afterward, especially when my family is there, because it’s just fun to share those moments throughout Victory Lane,” he said. “Keelan has obviously figured out the ‘hat dances’ and things that come with winning.”

Nowadays, Harvick’s family is a fixture at the racetrack nearly every weekend. And when Harvick celebrates a win on the frontstretch or in Victory Lane, 7-year-old Keelan is right there with him nearly every step of the way.

Keelan has taken checkered flags, rode back to Victory Lane with his dad and has helped the No. 4 crew prepare the car for the races.

Now, Harvick’s 2-year-old daughter, Piper, is starting to enter the picture. Kevin Harvick said it is important for him to ensure she has the same memories as Keelan once she becomes more aware of her surroundings.

Piper’s first trip to Victory Lane came at the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line last September, and Harvick drove the final nine laps with his daughter in mind more so than the thought kissing the famed Yard of Bricks for the second time.

“I kept telling myself, ‘Get the baby girl a trophy,’” Harvick said after his win. “A good weekend for her to come. She doesn’t quite know what’s going on, just a lot of noise. It’s pretty special.”

The family photos in Victory Lane are the main motivating factor for Harvick to win, he said. The other thing that motivates him to win is the enthusiasm from his race team. That was on full display last fall as crew chief Rodney Childers was visibly emotional at the idea of winning at the Racing Capital of the World.

“Those two things are really what drives me, because I love seeing the satisfaction on people’s faces,” Harvick said. “I love the way that I love to compete, but seeing the enthusiasm from those groups of people is something that makes me happy.”

This year, Harvick took a step to ensure that the enthusiasm for those groups of people won’t end soon. He is also optimizing his time with his wife and kids while traveling the grueling 38-week NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

Harvick announced in February that after consulting with is family and retired NASCAR veterans that he reached a contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing, the team he has been with since 2014 and with which he has earned 26 of his 49 NASCAR Cup Series career wins.

In that announcement, Harvick also announced he would step away from his TV duties with FOX Sports for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and his radio duties with his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show. Harvick said he wants to spend more time with his family, including visiting baseball stadiums, which has become a tradition of sorts for Harvick and his son.

“With my family coming to the racetrack more now that Piper is older, it is almost like you are on vacation,” he said. “The way the race schedule is on Saturdays, most of these tracks, you run one qualifying lap and have the rest of the day to figure out something to do. Those were some of the compromises that had to come with staying in the car in order to keep the family life balanced and be able to spend enough time with them.”

The Harvick family has not yet visited Victory Lane in 2020, but Harvick and his team have had reason to celebrate. Through the first four races of the season, Harvick is the only driver to score a top-10 finish in each race. That consistency has made Harvick the series leader by one point over Phoenix winner Joey Logano. Harvick finished second in that race.

Harvick sees his strong start to 2020 as an opposite to 2019. It took Harvick until July to visit Victory Lane last year after he entered the year struggling to grasp that his eight-win season in 2018 didn’t result in a championship. Nonetheless, Harvick said he and his team learned from it and made changes to ensure that sluggish start wouldn’t happen in 2020.

“I think for me, it took a few months to really get over 2018 and really get back into communicating with my team and doing the things we needed to do better,” he said. “You add all that in with not starting off where we needed to be on the performance side of things, and it was a deep dive into how do we get better and the progression of the cars throughout the year and kind of refocusing myself and really trying to be involved with the team. We’ve redone some things as we’ve gone through the year and the end of the year just trying to make sure that enthusiasm stays where it was.”

Harvick expects to take trophies home long before he defends his Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard title on July 5, trying to become the first NASCAR driver to win back-to-back at the Brickyard since Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2016. And if Harvick pulls off that feat, you can be sure that his family will be along for the ride.

Tickets are on-sale now for the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line event weekend, which includes a revamped July Fourth weekend schedule, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink, FGL Fest and the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

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